Just how much confidence should we take from John Kerry’s bravado yesterday on CNN? He insists that “no one should doubt the capacity of America to protect America,” using the example of al-Qaeda to prove his point — and then hastily amends that to “core al-Qaeda,” which basically means Osama bin Laden. Left unspoken is the rise of AQ affiliates in countries like Yemen (which just held a public convention), Syria, and the failed state in Libya created by Barack Obama’s war on Moammar Qaddafi. Not coincidentally, that’s exactly what concerns Americans about allowing the top leaders of the Taliban out of Gitmo … while tens of thousands of American troops are still in Afghanistan:

“I’m not telling you that they don’t have some ability at some point” to return to fighting, Kerry said in an interview that aired Sunday. “But they also have an ability to get killed doing that. And I don’t think anybody should doubt the capacity of the United States of America to protect Americans.”

Speaking to CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott in the seaside French village of Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, a few miles from Normandy, Kerry praised President Obama’s decision to swap five Taliban prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba – each of whom has experience on the battlefield – for Bergdahl, the last known prisoner of war in Afghanistan. …

“No one should doubt the capacity of America to protect America,” Kerry said when pressed about what the United States is doing to monitor the five Taliban fighters.

Kerry also declined to comment on Bowe Bergdahl’s service, having learned a lesson from Susan Rice’s faceplant on the subject over the past week, even with Elise Labbott attempting to goad him into a response with a reference to “swift boating.” He’s more correct on this point, telling Labott that there will be plenty of time to look into the issues of Bergdahl’s service record after he is treated for the complications of spending five years in captivity.  If the Obama administration taken that approach from the first and at least gave Congress some notification prior to the release of the Taliban figures, they might have avoided a significant part of the blowback they suffered over the last week.

Bergdahl’s record isn’t the really objectionable part of this swap anyway. The real blowback will take place when these commanders reconstitute their forces and networks, especially if that begins to happen now and not after the US leaves Afghanistan. Kerry can bluster about people watching these five former detainees to ensure they don’t return to the battle, but this administration doesn’t exactly have a great track record of making good on red lines, especially under Kerry’s watch at State.